Thirteen Chinese cadets take to the skies at Sydney flying school
FLYING instructors at the Australian Air Academy had to rethink their teaching strategy a little when 13 mainland Chinese pilot cadets arrived to begin a 40-week course.
None of them had sat behind the wheel of a car, let alone an aircraft.
'It is something you would not normally think about in terms of pilot training but it meant they had no perception of closing speeds which is very important to a pilot landing an aircraft,' said Captain Warren Gengos, the chief instructor at the Ansett-British Aerospace-owned academy at Tamworty, 300 kilometres north of Sydney.
Adjustments to the course were made and any reservations the academy had about the young cadets were quickly dispelled.
'Without a doubt they are the hardest workers of all the cadets at the academy and when you have a lot of Japanese students as we have, that is saying something,' said Mr Gengos.
In fact, they worked so hard day and night that when they eventually went to bed they could not sleep. The academy had to introduce physical education classes to give them a break and the opportunity to let off steam.
The 13 students, five from Xinjiang Airlines, four from China Northwest Airlines, two from Beijing Airlines, and one each from China Eastern and the China Aviation Flying College, have all now had their first solo flights and are well on the way to having completed their course.
The Australian Air Academy is not alone in its praise of Chinese pilot cadets.
While the aviation world, the travelling public and indeed China itself, have been expressing great concern about the mainland's air safety record in the last couple of years, more and more of its cadet pilots have been travelling abroad to study and have been impressing the training colleges.
In July, China's first ever overseas ab initio (basic training) students, a class of 12 cadets from the Civil Aviation Flying College in Guanghan City, in Sichuan province, graduated from the Flight Safety International academy in Vero Beach, California.
And this month another 12 cadets have graduated from the Oxford Air Training School, in England, at the end of a one-year course.
'We are very pleased with the way our Chinese students have approached their training and with the results,' said the head of the school, Captain Bruce Latton.
'They have a very good application and what we have found particularly impressive is the way they have tackled the English language and the problems associated with living so far away from home. Indeed, they have been a credit to their country.' The Australian Air Academy also has English on its timetable for the Chinese cadets.
The course also includes leadership, resource management and human factor training.
'We realise that being an airline pilot extends far beyond simply learning to fly,' said Mr Gengos.
Another disadvantage many of the Chinese students have when compared to other cadets, other than the language, is that they often come from unsophisticated villages and have never travelled overseas before.
Earlier this year, Air Lines visited New Zealand and met four young cadets from Xiamen Airlines who were undergoing ab initio training with Air New Zealand.
When they arrived to start a one-year course they had never flown a plane. When they return home at the end of the year they will be qualified to fly as a Boeing 737 co-pilot.
On the day Air Lines met them they have just been awarded their private pilots' licences.